Panaji: The Goa assembly on Thursday passed an amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984, formally derecognising the coconut palm, an iconic part of the state's cultural legacy, as a tree.
However, the Opposition staged a walkout claiming the amendment would benefit the real estate lobby.
Opposition legislator Vijai Sardesai said the amendment would pave the way for dilution of Goa's cultural identity, of which the coconut palm was an integral part, and asked the government to bring out a legislation on the lines of an existing law in the Philippines to protect coconut trees.
"The treasury benches are only talking about preserving trees and that they will bring an Act on the lines of Philippines to protect coconut trees. Why don't you bring that act first? This amendment will benefit the real estate lobby," Sardesai said.
Former chief minister and Congress legislator from Margao Digambar Kamat said the decision would benefit coconut traders outside the state.
"Once, Goa was an exporter of coconuts. Today we have to import. The government is playing into the hands of lobbies," Kamat said.
The bill, which was passed amid uproar and a subsequent walkout, deletes section 1A of the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act.
The now dropped section read: "Notwithstanding anything in the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984 or in any other Act for the time being in force, the term 'tree' used in this Act, shall, besides other trees, include coconut trees..."
Arlekar, defending the amendment, said that the coconut palm was included as a tree in the Act due to an error in the first place.
"We are only correcting an error. Even botanically, the coconut palm is not called a tree," Arlekar said. (IANS)